Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Marketing - An Interview With Lois W. Stern

Book marketing is fast becoming a very specialized sub-set of Internet marketing. I recently had the opportunity to speak with author Lois W. Stern, editor-at-large for and author of several books on the subject of cosmetic surgery.

Lois is a writer who has experienced success in regards to marketing her work in today's Internet marketing environment. She knows what must be done and she does it well. In this interview she gives us a glimpse into what she has done to achieve her current level of success.

How many books have you written - Tell us about them

I’ve written two books for adults and four books for children. My most recent books include Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery, which is an in depth look into the emotional undercurrents to cosmetic surgery. My second book, Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour explains what to expect (and not expect) from the many non-invasive and minimally invasive aesthetic procedures that proliferate today.

What was your goal in writing these books?
The goals for these two books were very different. Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery was a blending of research, interviews (with over 100 women), and memoir. I know the common perception out there is that women who undergo cosmetic surgery are motivated by vanity, but I really didn’t find that to be the case. There are many other misperceptions floating about and taboo topics that I felt should be brought to light and did just that in SLCS. Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour is packed with valuable, hype-free information about the non-surgical aesthetic treatments available to us today.

What have you found to be your greatest marketing challenge?
As authors, we write because we have something important to say or to satisfy a creative urge. Most of us give little thought to marketing our books until after giving birth to them. It wasn’t until my proof copy - that beautiful newborn baby - arrived in the mail, that I first began to focus on the next step - how to market my book. BIG MISTAKE! It’s absolutely essential to start building that platform early on, but so hard to do so before one has the credentials of a published book. It’s a catch 22 for most of us. Authors really need to work just as hard at building a brand for themselves as they do at writing their books - maybe even harder.

What is the key to successfully marketing books in today's environment?
Don’t get discouraged. If plan A doesn’t work out for you, be ready to move on to plan B. I contacted many radio personalities in the hopes of getting on the air - mostly with discouraging results. But after having many of my requests ignored or turned down, I struck gold with Patty Kovacs, host of the Health and Beauty Revolution Show out in California. Patty has interviewed some of the most famous plastic surgeons, dermatologists and New York Times best selling authors, so you can imagine my excitement in learning that I was going to be a guest on her show! That interview went very well, and we became friendly through a series of coincidences. We worked together on several writing projects, and here’s the most amazing part of the story. We are now partners and dear friends - with our own website and newsletter - without ever meeting in person!

What has been the most successful book marketing method you have used?
For me, giving live presentations and interviews seems to work well. Sometimes I seek them out, but at other times I am approached first. A journalist called to ask: “Do people tend to treat you differently after cosmetic surgery?” We talked for awhile and 3 paragraphs about me ended up in her article “Hey, It’s Still Me in There” on the first page of the Sunday edition of the Style section of the NY and LA Times. My Amazon sales went through the roof for the next few months.

Here’s another idea that has worked for me. I did a panel presentation for an authors’ conference called “Authors Helping Authors”. I try to live that motto as I do believe there are so many little ways we can help one another. If I particularly like a book written by a fellow author, I write a review and post it on Amazon with a 4 or 5 star rating. I have also made good connections leading to bulk sales for a couple of authors.

I do find it very satisfying to extend a helping hand to other authors and recommend a buddy system. But be forewarned, there is no free lunch. No one will continue to reach out to the author who is just a taker. We all have to think in terms of reciprocity, not just what’s in it for me!

What has been the least successful book marketing method you have used?
I agonize over the details too much and tend to lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes I just have to step back and say to myself: “Hey, what do you really want to accomplish here and is this the most expedient path to that goal?”

Do you follow a formal marketing plan for your book?
No, not really. But I do keep a notebook with an itemized list of tasks I want to accomplish each week. I feel so good when I can check something off as a task completed - especially if it has worked out well. That list keeps me focused and on target. I don’t always start at the top of my list and work my way down. It’s more a matter of what excites me that particular day, because I know if I feel energized, I’ll do a better job.

Does the level of competition for the buyer's attention (on the Internet) concern you?
I don’t know if ‘concern’ is the right word for what I feel, but the level of competition is certainly a reality. I am keenly aware of it. No doubt my job would be much easier if those numbers were cut in half, but there is no point in fretting about things I can’t control.

What do you see in the future for the small independent book store?
I worry about them. So many of the independents have gone out of business and I find that so sad. Even the gigantic B & N near Lincoln Center in NYC has announced that it’s closing it doors. Amazon offers books at such low prices that the brick and mortar stores simply can’t compete. I support our local independent, Book Revue, as much as I can because they and others like them offer services that Amazon can’t provide. I did two author presentations at Book Revue and so has just about every best selling author you can name, including an impressive list of celebrities and politicians.

At what point would you feel you would be able to say 'I've made it'?
I guess that depends on one's definition of success, doesn't it. When I receive e-mail messages from readerstelling me of the profound effect Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery has had on them, that's an unbelievably rewarding experience! Here are two examples: I received one e-mail with the words, "Greetings From Switzerland" in the subject line. This woman wrote that she had purchased 12 books on cosmetic surgery in preparation for her own facelift. Yet with all those books at her disposal, Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery was the one that she and her hubby kept going back to post-surgery because it told it all with such honesty and candor. (She even shared it with her plastic surgeon, who now recommends it to his English speaking patients.)

Another woman, who was emotionally overwrought post-surgery, wrote to tell me that in desperation she googled the words: "Sexual attraction toward your plastic surgeon", discovered SLCS, and wrote to tell me how much my book
helped her understand and work through her own emotions - so much so that she then ordered a second copy for her plastic surgeon with a note suggesting that he pay particular attention to chapters 5 and 6. You see, she had tried to discuss this topic with him, but his inadequate response actually exacerbated the issue.

What are your feelings regarding e-books and electronic book readers?
I just returned from the Infinity Publishing annual writers conference where their CEO, Art Glutz talked at length about the huge impact e-books are already having on the book publishing market. Other speakers voiced similar opinions. Jerry Simmons, twenty plus year veteran executive with Time Warner Books has been touting the coming impact of e-books on the publishing industry for several years. No one has that crystal ball,but at least we should be aware of what the experts are saying.

What advice would you give to other authors just entering the book marketing arena?
Treat rejections and disappointments as an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t retreat. Just move on. The name of the game is perseverance.

Along with that I would add, trust and follow your instincts. I knew I couldn’t write Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty On Your Lunch Hour - a book of considerable scope and information requiring considerable expertise, without the help of a variety of aesthetic professionals. Do you know how I recruited my experts? I simply called, introduced myself, explained my mission and asked.

Lois Stern is editor-at-large for, the largest Internet site worldwide for news, articles and products relating to cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Along with Patty Kovacs, host of the Health and Beauty Revolution Show she publishes a monthy newsletter entitled Coast To Coast - Eye On Beauty Newsletter.

During her twenty years as an educator, where Lois W. Stern took an active role in her field as a frequent presenter at state and national educational conferences and served as Co-president of Suffolk Reading Council and subsequent Regional Director of Nassau and Suffolk LI Reading Councils. A number of her articles have been published by ERIC (U.S. Department of Education - Office of Educational Research and Improvement), parent newsletters, Newsday and the New York Times.

Stern continued to pursue her love for writing, and soon became co-editor of a Long Island Internet web-zine, LI EYE. As she created and authored the column Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, she discovered her special niche of investigative journalism, and put those same talents to work in her book, Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery, where she was able to gain the trust of over one hundred women while interviewing them about some of the most intimate aspects of their lives. Lois worked along with 11 nationally renowned experts to write her second book, Tick Tock, Stop the Clock ~ Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour. Stern received a Bachelor of Science degree from Barnard College of Columbia University, where she majored in Sociology. She holds one Masters Degree in Elementary Education and a second in Reading and Special Education.

Lois Stern